Shahnaz Askins ’15 (College of Arts & Sciences) is a retired Navy Legalman who spent 17 years in the military. Her service included four deployments and nine duty stations. But Askins’ second deployment contributed to her developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that has given her a new compassion for others and passion for the field of psychology.
“My deployment in 2004 to Fallujah, Iraq is where I developed PTSD due to multiple exposures of horrific events as a result of combat,” Askins explains. “At the time, I didn’t know what PTSD was, so the condition only festered. My 2007 deployment to Kuwait was like putting salt on an open wound. I didn’t receive treatment for the condition until 2009.”
Things got worse in 2010 during Askins’ fourth and final deployment. “I learned my sister was killed in a car crash,” she remembers. “Subsequently, a trigger was set off, and I went into a spiral flat spin. I was taken off the ship and received continued treatment.” In 2012, she was medically retired from the Navy.
Armed with insight and sensitivity for those with disabilities, Askins was motivated to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Regent. “Knowledge makes you love better,” she insists. “That is so true. It does. Once I started having the knowledge about myself through the university’s faith integration, I was able to love more.”
Askins says she didn’t have the greatest childhood and experienced many challenges growing up. But her Regent professors taught her about the importance of authenticity, which creates a bridge of trust between a counselor and a client. “I can take from all my bad experiences and turn it for the good. The Bible calls it “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3). People can have compassion for others, but to have empathy takes things to a whole new level of ‘authenticity.’”
While Askins’ active duty service may be over, she remains connected to the military through sports competitions. In 2014 and 2015, Askins represented the Navy in the Warrior Games for “wounded warriors,” participating in cycling and track & field. This past May, she competed in power lifting, rowing and field events at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, as a member of Team USA, a selection collaborate from all service branches.
Before the high-profile event, Askins told ESPN that participating gave her newfound confidence and helped her be a better mother to her children: “When we go to the Invictus (Games), we’re going to put our heart out, giving everything we have, just like we did when we served, and continue to be the best we can be.”
Askins says that, while preparing her to become a Christian leader to change the world, the university helped develop and refine an important skill set: “Model the way; inspire a shared vision; challenge the process; enable others to act; and encourage the heart.”
In January, she hopes to begin pursuing her master’s in clinical psychology: “The education given at Regent is a time period to work on oneself. An individual cannot lead until he or she has worked on self first.”
Please join the entire Regent community in praying for this summer’s alumni World Changer, Shahnaz Askins.